Frontier volleyball wins third state championship with sweep
NORTHBOROUGH — The Frontier Regional girls volleyball team got its three-peat Saturday.
The Red Hawks defeated Lynnfield 3-0 at Algonquin Regional for their program’s third straight state Division 3 championship.
“It feels really good,” senior Julia Wan said. “We’ve worked really hard the past few years. I was on the team my sophomore and junior years and it feels almost like that but even a little bit better because we’re leaving and now we are leaving it to the rest of the team now.”
Frontier (23-1) defeated the Pioneers 25-19, 25-16, 25-21 for the Red Hawks’ fifth state title since 2005.
“It is amazing,” senior Ali Durant said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a better feeling, leaving my senior season with a win here in three games. It was awesome. I’m proud of my girls. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
The early parts of the match were closer than the score might indicate, as Lynnfield (21-4) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the crucial first game and kept things close all the way to an 18-16 lead for Frontier.
That’s when Red Hawks standout senior hitter Cassidy Stankowski, the reigning state Gatorade Player of the Year, took over. Setter Tori Whitney (24 assists, 12 digs, two aces) dished six times to Stankowski, who blasted six kills over her team’s next seven points — along with a Kate Harper ace — to pull away and take the first game 25-19.
“For some reason, that (early trouble) happened in all of our tournament games,” junior Sarah Woodward said. “We don’t start out great, but it gives us more motivation to get it going, so it works out for us.”
Frontier settled down from there, dominating the second game from start to finish. It had to overcome an early 4-1 deficit in the third game before taking an 8-5 lead with the help of four quick Stankowski kills.
“Our energy helped out a lot,” said Durant (13 digs). “They were a very good team. We kept up with them and just tried to keep everything off the floor.”
Stankowski capped her remarkable six-year varsity career with 17 kills and 14 digs. Woodward added 12 kills and 12 digs, Harper had three aces, three kills and three assists and Wan contributed one ace, four kills and three digs.
“Lynnfield is a great team, and they kept balls off the floor that teams we play all year probably wouldn’t,” Stankowski said. “But at the end of the day, I think we were the better team and we played like it.”
The match ended with Whitney showing faith in Woodward, who had three straight kill attempts at match point either hit the net or go out.
But at 24-21 in the third game, Whitney went back to Woodward again, who blasted home the kill to complete the three-peat.
“I was really tired, Woodward said. “I was just trying to give it my all on that last one and win it.”
Red Hawks coach Sean MacDonald said the decision showed Whitney’s maturity at the position.
“That’s trust,” he said. “That’s ‘It’s OK that you had a bad one, I know you aren’t going to have three or four bad ones in a row.’ Tori has really grown as a setter and Sarah has really grown as a player. Those are the things you really like to see as a coach.”
The victory was the final game for seniors Emma Contois, Durant, Stankowski, Wan and Whitney. Wan, Durant and Stankowski were all-state selections this year.
“They all really stepped up this year,” MacDonald said. “I can’t say enough about how much Kate Harper, Emma Contois and Tori Whitney came through for us.”
Durant said winning the title in her final year is especially sweet.
“It’s much different as a senior,” she said. “It hasn’t really sunken in yet that it was my last game. I don’t know when that will sink in, but it is a nice feeling knowing that I’m going to leave another state championship.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at email@example.com.